Some 25 million years ago, there was a bird with a 21-foot wingspan flying over the world's oceans. It is the largest seabird ever recorded in history, according to a report from paleontologists.
The bird is called Pelagornis sandersi, and it belonged to a family of birds that are referred to as "toothed" birds. However, this family of birds is also extinct. Furthermore, it appears the findings have shown that for ancient seabirds, being bigger was better.
The fossils of this bird were uncovered at Charleston, South Carolina, in 1983. It is also understood that the bird lived around 25 to 28 million years ago. The fossil was so massive that some of it had to be dug out with a backhoe.
"A giant bird lands at an airport 25 million years too soon-it's kind of amusing," says study author Daniel Ksepka of North Carolina State University in Raleigh. "Maybe he should have just waited and landed on the new runway."
To put into perspective how large the wings of this bird were, just imagine a dance floor that can hold up to 160 people. Huge isn't it? We agree.
The largest bird alive today is the royal albatross with a wingspan that measures only 11.5 feet. That is very small in comparison to the pelagornis sandersi. Furthermore, this ancient seabird rivals the Argentavis magnificens, which is currently the largest bird on record, with a wingspan sitting at 23 feet.
However, though the argentavis was a bigger bird, it is believed the sandersi was a better flier.
"Pelagornis was certainly much lighter and a better 'flier' than the vanished giant condor," said paleontologist Antoine Louchart of France's Institute of Functional Genomics in Lyon.
Not only was the pelagornis a huge bird, but it was also lightweight at 48 pounds. This allowed the creature to soar above the ocean bed for long distances.
With these findings, it is not difficult to believe that a bigger bird with an even larger wingspan could be found in the years to come. However, history has proven that larger and larger fossils of extinct animals have been and perhaps will be discovered.